Virtual Memories Show 258:
Willard Spiegelman

“When you review old pieces, you have a double-sided response: On the one hand, it’s ‘Gosh, how was I so smart? How could I write such a beautiful sentence?’ On the other hand, it’s ‘Gosh, what a piece of crap! How I could I be so banal, so jejune, so ignorant?’ The combination of legitimate pride and legitimate embarrassment is a standard one.”

Critic and essayist Willard Spiegelman returns to the show to talk about his new book, If You See Something, Say Something: A Writer Looks at Art (SMU Press), collecting his art reviews from the Wall Street Journal. We get into the notion of legacy after his retirement from 45 years of teaching, then tackle the process of learning to look at paintings, his favorite museums, the question of whether Hockney’s happiness makes him less of an artistic genius than grim/tormented artists, whether one should buy art to match one’s furniture, his love of Marfa, TX, the differences between being a pilgrim and a tourist, the role of curiosity as a remedy for boredom, the challenge of editing a literary magazine in this day and age, whether he’s a role model to younger gay people, the first time he had a student who was the child of one of his first students (that is, when he realized he was getting old), and more! Give it a listen! And go buy If You See Something, Say Something!

“One of the things I’m proud of is that, as a teacher, I’m still learning from teachers. Not university teachers, but dance teachers, swimming instructors, yoga teachers. When you hear somebody putting you through your paces, you learn how they teach.”

“Stoner is not a book to give to a man who has just retired from being an English teacher after 45 years. I was on the train, reading the last 30-40 pages, and I was in tears. I was so glad there were few people on the train with me to see me embarrassing myself.”

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes!

Lots of ways to follow The Virtual Memories Show! iTunes, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

Willard Spiegelman recently retired from his role as the Hughes Professor of English at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, where since 1971 he taught generations of students how to read, to write, and to think. From 1984 until 2016, he was also the editor in chief of Southwest Review. He has written many books and essays about English and American poetry. For more than thirty years, he has been a regular contributor to the Leisure and Arts pages of The Wall Street Journal. He has two previous appearances on The Virtual Memories Show in 2013 and 2016.

Credits: This episode’s music is Nothing’s Gonna Bring Me Down by David Baerwald, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at Willard’s NYC apartment on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 Microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Cloudlifter CL-1 and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photo of Mr. Spiegelman by me. It’s on my instagram.

Virtual Memories Show 255:
Henry Wessells

“This is either a project I’ve been working on for three years, or since I was seven years old.”

Antiquarian book dealer Henry Wessells joins the show to talk about his new exhibition at the Grolier Club and its accompanying book, A Conversation larger than the Universe: Readings in Science Fiction and the Fantastic, 1762-2017 (Oak Knoll). We get into his collecting impulse and why he’s not really a book collector, the childhood influence of Doc Savage and the adult influence of Robert Sheckley, Mary Shelley’s primary role in the invention of science fiction, the relevance of John Crowley’s Little, Big to our current moment, the ways the internet has changed book-collecting and casual reading, the vicarious thrill of book-dealing, our mutual teenaged meltdowns when we encountered Neuromancer, the unsung writers in his collection, the one book he wishes he owned, and a whole lot more. Give it a listen! And go buy A Conversation larger than the Universe!

“The good thing about going into real bookstores is the thing that no algorithm will ever be able to do: finding the book next to the book you thought you were looking for.”

NOTE: The exhibition for A Conversation larger than the Universe runs through March 10, 2018 at the Grolier Club in NYC. There’s also a panel on science fiction on March 6, featuring Mr. Wessells, Ellen Datlow, John Crowley and Samuel R. Delany and other authors. Visit the events page at the Grolier Club for more information.

“There’s nothing like writing a book about the history of science fiction to realize how little of it one has read.”


Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes!

Lots of ways to follow The Virtual Memories Show! iTunes, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

Henry Wessells is a Buddhist vegetarian polyglot and parent; lives in a house; is author of a collection of short stories, Another green world, a collection of poems, The Private Life of Books (with photographs by Paul Schütze), and A Conversation larger than the Universe; and publisher of Temporary Culture, whose titles include Hope-in-the-Mist by Michael Swanwick and Forever Peace. To Stop War by Joe Haldeman & Judith Clute; is a writer, translator, and antiquarian bookseller (see CV here); a baker of pies, peach, apple, & pumpkin; originator of the word electronym; a hand bookbinder; compiler of the Avram Davidson website; and a reader of books.

 

Credits: This episode’s music is Nothing’s Gonna Bring Me Down by David Baerwald, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at Mr. Wessell’s home on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 Microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Cloudlifter CL-1 and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photos of Mr. Wessells and of me and Mr. Wessells by me. They’re on my instagram.

Virtual Memories Show 251:
Paul Karasik & Mark Newgarden

“Ernie Bushmiller used to say, ‘You gotta do the job right,’ and we took him at his word.”

How deep can deep reading go? Paul Karasik & Mark Newgarden talk about the 10-year project of exploring a single Nancy strip, for their new book How to Read Nancy: The Elements of Comics in Three Easy Panels (Fantagraphics). We get into the wonders of Ernie Bushmiller’s signature strip, the transformative class they took with filmmaker Ken Jacobs, the malfunctioning tape recorder that led to the whole project, the challenges of getting Jerry Lewis to write the book’s foreword, Nancy’s role as proto-feminist, and more! Plus, I get them to talk about the secret story of the first time they met, where their collecting impulse came from, the pleasure of finding a good flea market, Art Spiegelman’s strength as a teacher, how each of them teaches comics and how a lot of students have no sense of comics history, and how they keep the “ick” in “academic”! Give it a listen! And go buy How to Read Nancy!

“Nancy was a guilty pleasure when I was kid, if it even WAS a pleasure. There was something odd about the strip that gave me the creeps.”

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes!

Lots of ways to follow The Virtual Memories Show! iTunes, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

Paul Karasik is a cartoonist, editor, and teacher. His works include the graphic novel adaptation of Paul Auster’s City of Glass (with David Mazzucchelli) and The Ride Together: A Brother and Sister’s Memoir of Autism in the Family (with his sister Judy Karasik). He also edited the complete collection of Fletcher Hanks comics, Turn Loose Our Death Rays And Kill Them All. He lives in Martha’s Vineyard.

Mark Newgarden is an acclaimed cartoonist whose work was collected in We All Die Alone. He is also the the co-author (along with his partner, Megan Montague Cash) of Houghton Mifflin’s bestselling Bow Wow series of children’s books. He lives in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

Credits: This episode’s music is Nothing’s Gonna Bring Me Down by David Baerwald, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at Mark Newgarden’s home on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 Microphones and a Blue enCORE 100 Microphone, all feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Cloudlifter CL-1 and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photo of Mr. Karasik & Mr. Newgarden by me. It’s on my instagram.

Virtual Memories Show:
The Guest List 2017

It’s time for our year-end Virtual Memories Show tradition: The Guest List! I reached out to 2017’s pod-guests and asked them about the favorite book(s) they read in the past year, as well as the books or authors they’re hoping to read in 2018! Three dozen responded with a dizzying array of books. (I participated, too!) Just in time for you to make some Hanukkah and/or Christmas purchases, The Virtual Memories Show offers up a huge list of books that you’re going to want to read! Give it a listen, and get ready to update your wish lists!

This year’s Guest List episode features selections from 36 of our recent guests (and one bonus guest)! So go give it a listen, and then visit our special Guest List page where you can find links to the books and the guests who responded.

Also, check out the 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016 editions of The Guest List for more great book ideas!

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About our Guests

The guests who participated in this year’s Guest List are Pete Bagge, Kathy Bidus, Sven Birkerts, RO Blechman, Kyle Cassidy, Graham Chaffee, Howard Chaykin, Joe Ciardiello, John Clute, John Crowley, John Cuneo, Ellen Datlow, Samuel R. Delany, Nicholas Delbanco, Barbara Epler, Joyce Farmer, Sarah Williams Goldhagen, Paul Gravett, Liz Hand, Vanda Krefft, Michael Meyer, Cullen Murphy, Jeff Nunokawa, Mimi Pond, Eddy Portnoy, Keiler Roberts, Martin Rowson, Matt Ruff, Ben Schwartz, Vanessa Sinclair, Ann Telnaes, Michael Tisserand, Gordon Van Gelder, Shannon Wheeler, Wallis Wilde-Menozzi, Matt Wuerker . . . and me, Gil Roth! Check out their episodes at our archives!

Credits: This episode’s music is Nothing’s Gonna Bring Me Down by David Baerwald, used with permission of the artist. The episode was recorded on a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Cloudlifter CL-1 and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC.

Virtual Memories Show 244:
Nicholas Delbanco

“It’s a rare day when I’m not at my desk by 6.”

He’s been blackening the blank page for more than 50 years, and now Nicholas Delbanco joins The Virtual Memories Show to talk about writing, teaching, and sleepwalking through life! We get into his new essay collection, Curiouser and Curiouser, the importance of establishing a writing routine or habit, the process of revising a decades-old trilogy in light of his growth as a writer, the art of faking spontaneity on the page, the value of a good MFA program, his refutation of his friends’ belief that language is a finite resource and not a renewable one, his assessment that he’s a minor writer (or, even worse, “a writer’s writer”), and the place the deracinated consider home. Plus: I fall back into the trap of Acquisitive Alchemy! Give it a listen! And go buy Curiouser and Curiouser: Essays!

“Writers probably don’t have more than two or three major topics, and the passage of time is one of mine.”

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes!

Lots of ways to follow The Virtual Memories Show! iTunes, Twitter, Instagram, Soundcloud, Facebook, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

Nicholas Delbanco is the recently retired Robert Frost Distinguished University Professor of English Language and Literature at the University of Michigan. He has published thirty books of fiction and non-fiction. His most recent novels are The Years, and The Count of Concord; his most recent works of non-fiction Lastingness: The Art of Old Age and The Art of Youth: Crane, Carrington, Gershwin, and the Nature of First Acts. As editor he has compiled the work of, among others, John Gardner and Bernard Malamud. He was the long-term Director of the MFA Program as well as the Hopwood Awards Program at the University of Michigan, he has served as Chair of the Fiction Panel for the National Book Awards, received a Guggenheim Fellowship and, twice, a National Endowment for the Arts Writing Fellowship. His newest book is Curiouser and Curiouser: Essays.

Credits: This episode’s music is Nothing’s Gonna Bring Me Down by David Baerwald, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at Mr. Delbanco’s apartment on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 Microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Cloudlifter CL-1 and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photos of Mr. Delbanco by me. It’s on my instagram.